Organic Consumers Association

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How Tax-Dodging Billionaires Use Farmers as Props

After this summer, President Trump and the Republican Congress have one big item on their agenda: taxes. Specifically, cutting them for the rich.

One tax they've got in their crosshairs is the estate tax -- which they malign as "the death tax." But it's nothing of the sort.

Passed a century ago at the urging of President Theodore Roosevelt, the estate tax is a levy on millionaire inheritances. It puts a brake on the concentration of wealth and political power, and raises substantial revenue -- over a quarter of a trillion dollars over the next decade, if it's kept -- from the richest one tenth of 1 percent.

Yet lobbyists are trying to put a populist spin on their effort to abolish this tax, which is paid exclusively by millionaires and billionaires. Puzzlingly, they're deploying farmers as props and claiming that the tax means the "death of the family farm."

The accusation is pure manure.

Only households with wealth starting at $11 million (and individuals with wealth over $5.5 million) are subject to the tax. "This hurts a lot of farmers," claimed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. "Many people have to sell their family farm."

But a new report by President Trump's own US Department of Agriculture shows this claim is bull. Only 4 out of every 1,000 farms will owe any estate tax at all -- and the effective tax rate on these small farms is a modest 11 percent.

Of those few farms, most have substantial non-farm income, according to the report -- think billionaire Ted Turner's ranch in Montana. And estate tax opponents haven't been able to identify a single example of a farm being lost because of the estate tax.

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